The movement principles of TaiChi, and their expression in the field of Taijiquan (Tai Chi Ch’uan), are far less mysterious than they seem.
For a variety of reasons, Truth can be hard to come by. The biggest impediment, however, is almost always our own refusal to see what is actually quite obvious.
In many cases, a good Teacher will assist us in discovering how to see what we do not see intuitively. In some cases, a good Teacher must further obscure what we do not see intuitively. Yet, in both cases, the task of learning is ultimately up to the student.
The curriculum of Taijiquan has been adapted and even watered-down as it has spread across the globe. As noted above, in some cases this alteration has been intentional and perhaps has been functional or even necessary.
However, as the modified traditions are passed down and further modified with each iteration, the Truth and fullness of the curriculum becomes harder and harder to revive.
While Taijiquan has been adapted to increase accessibility and has helped a massive amount of individuals with countless physical and mental health challenges, there is rarely more than procedural lip-service to the definitively Martial origins and underpinnings of the exercises.
It is undeniably true that Taijiquan is a system of Qigong and has powerful health benefits. It is equally true that Taijiquan is a system of Martial Arts, and the movements and methods of Taijiquan have practical application in combative or self-defense scenarios.
While the reality of this Martial connection is unnerving to some, the underlying principles which make Taijiquan effective for Martial purposes are equally applicable to most (indeed, possibly all) athletic Human endeavors.
The generation, control, and transmission of Power might be the ultimate skill of Taijiquan, which is a useful ability in general. For baseball players, construction workers, and even a little old lady, the ability to mindfully use Power is worth cultivating.
The skill needn’t be Martial in application, but there is no better platform for observing the movement principles of Taijiquan than in the context of Martial Arts. The “Ch’uan (Quan)” in TaichiCh’uan/Taijiquan means “fist” or “boxing” and to see Martial movements is to see the principles of TaiChi in action.
Below you will observe blatantly Martial movements, but if you look beyond the merely Martial you will see the principles of Follow-Step (from Sun-style Taijiquan), Rooting, Zhan Zhuang Posture, etc.
The principles are present, whether the action is obviously Martial or not. Learn to see the principles everywhere and you can begin to use them anywhere.